When the lineups came out yesterday and Mark Kotsay was listed as the Brewers’ starting center fielder, well, let’s just say that the Internet did not approve.
Yes, Nyjer Morgan was struggling and yes Kotsay has had some success against Chris Carpenter in a tiny sample size. But really? The same Mark Kotsay who played ten games in center field this year and hadn’t been a regular at that position in five years? Hurm. Carlos Gomez seemed like the more obvious choice to fill in for Morgan, especially in what figured to be a low-scoring game with two aces taking the hill. Defense kind of matters in such situations.
And the move seemed disastrous in the first inning, as Kotsay was doubled off second base by Jon Jay, killing what could have been a big inning. Jay and Kotsay teamed up in the home half of the first too, with Jay lacing one to center field and Kotsay diving for — but missing — the ball. That allowed Rafael Furcal to score from second. Jay scored on Albert Pujols’ subsequent ground rule double. I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that either Morgan or Gomez reach that ball.
The damage was mitigated somewhat when Kotsay led off the third with a first-pitch homer off Carpenter, making it a 4-3 game. Then, in the fifth, Kotsay’s heads-up base running allowed him to reach second base after drawing a walk, but that also opened up a base for the Cardinals to walk Prince Fielder and then Rickie Weeks struck out, stranding Kotsay.
The homer was nice, of course, but that first inning could have been very different had Carlos Gomez been playing center field. And given that all four of the Cardinals runs came in that first inning, it was pretty much the ballgame. It all adds up to a decision that, if the Brewers don’t advance to the World Series, Ron Roenicke will be thinking about all winter long.